Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pasta with greens, beans, and garlic bread crumbs

I had such fun going through the Summer Fest recipes last week! I found lots of creative ideas for cooking corn and also came across a bunch of great blogs I hadn't seen before. And now it's already time for the next Summer Fest post - this week's theme is herbs, beans, and greens. It didn't take me long to decide what to make for this one. This recipe is one of our favorites, and I'm excited to share it with you. The pasta here is tossed with beans and greens in a light cheesy sauce (with bacon!), and there are some completely delicious garlic bread crumbs to top it all off. No need for side dishes here - this is a complete meal in itself.

This recipe is from The Best 30-Minute Recipe, which is a cookbook by America's Test Kitchen. As the title suggests, this book focuses on quick recipes, and includes lots of handy shortcuts and tips for saving time, without sacrificing flavor or quality ingredients. The recipes are really good, although they sometimes take a bit longer than 30 minutes (unless you are very efficient in the kitchen, which I'm not).

I made several substitutions to the ingredients here - I used a whole wheat blend rotini instead of spaghetti, red Swiss chard instead of kale, fresh cranberry beans instead of canned cannellini (might as well celebrate the fresh shell beans of summer!), and Swiss cheese instead of fontina (I just realized that I used two "Swiss" ingredients...how random). The Swiss cheese caused a bit of a problem - it got really stringy as it melted and clumped together with the greens, rather than blending smoothly with the sauce. I've made this recipe previously with fontina and parmesan cheese, and didn't have a problem with either of those. If you use Swiss, you might want to try melting it into the broth mixture before tossing with pasta, rather than stirring it in at the end. I'm including the original ingredients as well as with my substitutions in the recipe below, so you can make it however you want.

You can find links the other Summer Fest entries over at Pinch My Salt.

Pasta with greens, beans, and garlic bread crumbs
Adapted from The Best 30-Minute Recipe
Serves 5-6

2 slices high-quality sandwich bread, torn into quarters (I think the crumbs come out better if you use whole wheat)
2 tbs olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips (leave this out if you want to make this vegetarian)
1 onion, minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth if you want to make this vegetarian)
1 pound pasta (the original recipe suggests spaghetti but I prefer penne or rotini)
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, or equivalent amount cooked fresh cranberry beans (any mild, creamy bean would probably be fine)
1 cup grated fontina, parmesan, or Swiss cheese (see text above for a note about using Swiss)
1 bunch kale, collards, chard, or other hearty greens, stems and ribs removed, leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups)

Bring 4 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a large pot. While water is heating, pulse bread with oil in a food processor until it forms coarse crumbs. Toast crumbs in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring often, until they are beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add half of garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant and crumbs are golden brown. Transfer crumbs to a bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Add bacon to the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until fat is partially rendered, about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook until bacon is crisp and onion is softened and browned, about 6 minutes. Stir in remaining garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, scraping up browned bits. Add beans and bring mixture to a simmer. Remove from heat and set sauce aside, covered.

When water is boiling, add pasta. About 5 minutes before pasta is done (this will depend on your pasta - check the box for an estimate), add the greens and cook until pasta is al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water, then drain pasta and greens.

Return pasta and greens to the pot, add sauce, and toss. Stir in cheese and season with salt and pepper. Add the reserved pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce if needed. Top each serving with bread crumbs.


  1. This looks like a great weeknight stand-by. Can't wait to try. Thanks!

  2. I love how you used all three of this week's ingredients. Can't wait to try it!

  3. I love your substitutions. Isn't it fun to try out different combinations. I'm glad SummerFest has introduced me to your blog.

  4. This pasta does look great. I too would probably grab the swiss chard....love the stuff!

    Here is my recipe for this weeks Summer Fest, I highlighted Basil:
    Grilled Cheese Bruschetta

  5. Hi Ranjani,

    Ok, PhD student at MIT who writes a food blog... I am humbled - you've provided a whole new definition of multi tasking!!! This pasta looks wonderful - I've been looking for ways to get more greens into my menus so I'll definitely be giving this one a go!!!

  6. Hey, thanks for visiting & commenting on ReTorte! I always enjoy hearing from new people!

  7. lovely- I think that pasta and garlic breadcrumbs are one of those perfect unsung combinations- this looks beautiful!

  8. This looks delicious-- and thanks for stopping by my blog to add this to the Summer Fest party! My addition this week was this Wax and Butter Bean Herbed Salad:

    Can't wait to see what you cook up next week for stone fruit!


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